Vice premier shares 'Taiwan model' with top U.S. health official

Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (bottom right) discussing Taiwan's coronavirus response with US Deputy Health Secretary Eric Hargan (bottom left) 

Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (bottom right) discussing Taiwan's coronavirus response with US Deputy Health Secretary Eric Hargan (bottom left)  (CNA photo)

The "Taiwan model" for fighting COVID-19 can be successfully adopted by democracies around the world, Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) told United States Deputy Health Secretary Eric Hargan on Friday.

The two spoke at a virtual forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank, with the China scholar Bonnie Glaser serving as the moderator.

The discussion followed on talks between the two countries' health ministers last month, during which U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar pledged full support for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA).

In his remarks, Chen noted that Taiwan had confirmed only 440 COVID-19 cases to date, and had not recorded a locally-transmitted case for 26 consecutive days. Only six of the patients have died.

Despite a "lack of transparency from China" and Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO, Chen continued, Taiwan had been successful in containing the virus because of its epidemic prevention model, which is built on transparency, technology and teamwork.

In terms of transparency, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) holds daily briefings to raise public awareness and combat disinformation about COVID-19, Chen said.

On a technological level, the country has empowered its national health insurance system, which it has used to ration face masks and identify potential risks based on people's travel histories, he said.

Chen cited teamwork as another essential element, noting that private citizens had voluntarily postponed the Dajia Matsu pilgrimage, the largest annual religious procession in Taiwan, in the interests of public safety.

Taiwan's ability to keep the virus at bay had proven "the Taiwan model can be adopted by other democracies around the world," Chen said.

Chen concluded: "Our 23 million people should not be excluded by the WHO. Taiwan should be allowed to engage in meaningful WHO participation and should be an official member."

Hargan, meanwhile, reiterated the United States' support for Taiwan to participate as an observer in the WHA's upcoming online session on May 18-19.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, "no one should be isolated from this critical body of international health," he said.

Taiwan, under its formal name, the Republic of China (ROC), was expelled from the WHA in 1972, when the body voted to recognize the People's Republic of China as the legitimate representative of China.

Taiwan participated in WHA events as an observer from 2009-2016 under the designation "Chinese Taipei," when relations between Beijing and Taipei had warmed under the previous ruling party, the Kuomintang, which accepted the concept that the two sides are part of one China, with each side free to interpret what that means.

Since 2017, however, Taiwan has been excluded from the body due to opposition from China, which has objected to Taiwan's new ruling Democratic Progressive Party's rejection of that concept.

So far Taiwan has not received an invitation from the WHO to participate in the upcoming WHA meeting later this month. (By Stacy Hsu and Matthew Mazzetta)

Updated : 2021-01-27 16:00 GMT+08:00